Explainers

Netflix’s Green Frontier, Explained

August 18, 2019
13 min read

If you can appreciate the danger of nature as much as its beauty, then ‘Green Frontier’ is the show you should turn to. Set in the lush greenery of the Amazons, with breath-taking backdrops, this Netflix-original combines the intrigue of a murder mystery with the ambience of supernatural and delivers a slow-burn that will leave you dumbfounded at the end. A limited series event, the show tackles the themes like the destructive exploitation of nature by humans, the struggle of indigenous people to keep their traditions alive, and the quest of an individual to find their true self. If you haven’t yet seen it, head over to Netflix. And bookmark this page, you will have to come back after that confusing finale.

SPOILERS AHEAD

Summary of the Plot

The story begins with the murder of five young women. Helena Poveda is sent to the jungles on Brazil-Columbia border to look into the matter. She faces resistance from the natives and the hostility of the local police department. Only one officer, Reynaldo Beuno, seems sincere enough to help her through this, but even he is held back by his corrupt superiors. The case becomes eerier when Helena discovers that one of the victims had been around for generations. Some intriguing stories about her circulate in the community, but the real surprise comes when Helena finds herself connected with her.

Who Are the Eternals?

One half of the story of ‘Green Frontier’ follows a detective solving the murder of five young women. The other half delves into the story of an ancient tribe that has a deep connection with the forest. As the name suggests, the Eternals are immortal people who live in the heart of the Amazons. Their lifeblood comes from the trees and they survive by feeding on its sap. This maintains their bond with nature and allows them to enter a realm where they are pure energy. They can enter this place whenever they want to and have to keep others from entering it. Joseph Schultz, who had been in pursuit of this power his whole life, theorises that this place is like a wormhole. It can take a person wherever and whenever, and whatever is done there has a direct impact on what happens in the real world. However, we don’t ever see any of the Eternals using this place as such, so Joseph’s theory could very well be wrong.

Other powers of the Eternals include telepathy and extraordinary healing powers with which they can not only heal themselves but also others. They can also make themselves and others in their vicinity invisible, and they never age. They don’t have the needs that mortals have. They don’t need food, they don’t need to sleep, they don’t go through the same transformations of age that humans have to face. They use the life flowing in the roots of the trees; the soil allows them entrance to the other realm.

Unlike humans, the Eternals don’t give birth to their successors. It is a knowledge passed down from teacher to student, who becomes the teacher in the next turn. Yua had learnt about it from his elder, and then he taught it to Ushe. Not everyone can become an Eternal. A series of tests help in determining your connection with nature. The forest decides when and if you are ready to become one with it. When the time comes, you have to find the Tree of Life and drink a potion made from its sap. This is the final stage of the procedure.

While the show gives the air of supernatural to the Eternals, it also backs their existence with scientific concepts. They might look like humans but they are different species, altogether. Ushe’s post-mortem reveals that her DNA has traces of three different species. Her body doesn’t decay like others’. Her cells have a protective membrane around them that reduces their disintegration, if not stopping it altogether. It is similar to the cell structure of the trees. Helena doesn’t understand it at first, but this shows Ushe’s connection with the Trees. Even her veins are like that of trees. They make the homo sapiens seem primitive. One could say that the Eternals are more evolved species. What has kept them away from the outside world and in the heart of the jungle is not just their bond with the forest, but also the fear that if the knowledge falls in wrong hands it could destroy the world.

Who Murdered Those Girls?

Helena is sent to the Amazons after four girls are found dead there. All of them have been shot dead. Their attire indicates that they are one of the missionaries from the Eden Church, a sect that only allows women in their premise. Being the only woman on the team, Helena is mocked and not taken seriously. After the four bodies are taken away, she walks further beyond the crime scene and enters the territory beyond her jurisdiction. There, she finds another woman, hanging from a pole and her heart taken out of her chest.

The manner of death indicates that the women who had been shot were only collateral damage. The main target was the woman without a heart. While the rest are easily identified, this one woman proves to be a tricky one. Reynaldo’s father-in-law tells Helena that this woman is not the age she seems, and because she had other unnatural traits, her tribe wanted to burn her body to purify her soul. Further, Reynaldo gets to know from an 80-year-old woman that the victim, whose name is revealed to be Ushe, was her older sister and had separated from their tribe a long time ago.

The man responsible for the death of these five women is Joseph Schultz. He had come to the forest in 1940. He was a Nazi who had been sent on one of the expeditions of Hitler to locate a power that only indigenous people know about. He spends many years in the jungle and becomes the leader of Ya’arikawas. He wins their trust by helping them defeat the loggers, foreigners who attack them and want to take the jungle for themselves. A number of tribes have met a similar problem and whenever they have crossed paths with Joseph, he has provided them with two options. Either to become one of the Ya’arikawas or die. The Arupani meet a similar fate after the loggers attack them. When a couple of their people die, the tribe demands Yua take help from Joseph. They kill some of the loggers, but there is always a chance of their return. Joseph invites Yua to mingle their tribes and be a leader by his side. His main motive here is to gain Yua’s trust and trick him into telling him the secret of the Eternals.

On Ushe’s insistence and due to his own apprehension about associating with a white man, Yua decides to not form an alliance with Joseph. The whole tribe has to pay the price for it, with Yua and Ushe being the only ones left alive. Joseph had been poisoned by Ushe in the guise of telling him the secret, but he survives and is cared for by the missionaries. The poison changes his body and his blood turns into black goo. He doesn’t age any further, but his face deforms with time. He returns to take control of the Ya’arikawas and locates Ushe, who is now with the Poveda family. He burns their house to drive her out. Helena’s mother is killed, but Ushe succeeds in getting the baby out of the house and channels her power to save both of them. Years later, Ushe finds her way back to the missionaries, who are now led by Raquel and have been rechristened as the Eden Church, who worship her as Mother Nature. On one of the trips to the jungle, where they help the tribes, Joseph succeeds in finding out about her. Other girls are shot dead, while Ushe is chased down and her heart is cut out.

Is Helena One of the Eternals?

When Helena finds Ushe, she has a feeling that this isn’t the first time she has seen her face. She is reminded of the fire that killed her mother and Ushe’s face and voice haunt her dreams. Delving deeper into the mystery of her life and death, Helena comes to the conclusion that her mother’s death is also related to her current case. The first connection emerges from the book written by her parents that mentions Ushe. Further investigation leads her into the den of a smuggler named Efrin Marquez. At first, she believes that he is the one responsible for all this. He tells her about his friendship with one of the dead girls and expresses his desire to catch the ones who did this to her. He suspects Yua when he finds him at the same place where Ushe’s body was found. He also tells her about her father, who had saved his life once. In repayment of that, Marquez has been paying his hospital bills. The real shock comes to her when she finds a photo of her parents with Ushe.

After she thought she had killed Joseph and her whole tribe was killed by the Ya’arikawas, Ushe wandered into town where she was found by young Raquel. She took her to missionaries, who gave her a place to stay, believing that by rescuing her they could get her to convert. They didn’t know what she actually was, and her strange habits made them think that she might be a witch. For some time, Ushe doesn’t mind the dress or the cross, or the punishment that comes as a result of her “wild” behaviour. But all that changes after she meets Povedas. They are fascinated by her and tap into her immense knowledge of nature. They don’t force her to change her religion; they don’t try to tame her. In fact, they lead her back to her tribe, the one she had abandoned all those years ago for Yua. She decides to cut ties with the church and goes back to her traditional ways.

One day, a complication appears in Aura’s pregnancy. The doctor declares that either the baby or the mother will survive this and they will have to make that decision pretty fast. Sympathetic to them, Ushe offers another solution. She suggests saving their child in the same manner that she had been saved and transformed by Yua. She also lets them know of the additional responsibility and dangers that come with being an Eternal. Povedas agree to it and after performing the ritual, Helena is born healthy and safe. Ushe starts mentoring her at an early age and discovers that the child is very intuitive about her powers. Before they can explore it further, Joseph comes to know about Ushe’s friendship with Povedas. They burn down the house, but Ushe narrowly escapes with Helena. She then advises her father to take her away before anyone else comes after them.

Helena is not Eternal in a conventional way. She wasn’t given the knowledge; she was born with it. She didn’t have to go through trials and didn’t have to drink any potion. Her mother had gone through all that for her and perhaps this is why it took a lot of time for Helena to realise her powers. She was to be guided through it by Ushe, but the tragedy separates them and she is sent away to Bogota. She can harness the power of the trees, can talk through thoughts, and can go to the other realm. But while Yua and Ushe had been taught these things, she is unaware of her potential.

Green Frontier Ending, Explained

In two parallel storylines, ‘Green Frontier’ takes its time to unravel the truth of the Eternals as well as the murder mystery. A clear line is drawn between the good and the bad, and at the end, it comes down to the fight for the soul of the forest. Joseph, who was supposedly dead all those years ago, takes Ushe’s heart to get himself in the higher realm. He succeeds for a while and tries to take Ushe’s energy, but before he can do that, her heart finally gives up and he is forced to make another attempt. While Yua, Reynaldo and the rest of the tribe take arms against the Ya’arikawas, Helena has to go against Joseph alone. He tries to persuade her to share the power with him. He tells her how the Arupani have not made use of it and that they, the “educated” ones, can change the world with it.

Helena agrees to share her blood with him and they both enter the other realm. There, Helena sees her burning house and while she is distracted by it, Joseph tries to take her energy. Before he can completely take over her, she fights back and absorbs all of him into her. In the last scene, we see her in a nightclub, images flashing between her and Joseph and a black goo coming out of her eyes. What happened there?

We know that Joseph wants to enter the other realm because he believes that it gives him access to all space and time. It is the place that only the soul can travel to, not the body. When he uses Ushe’s heart to get access to it, we see a faded form of him, unlike Ushe’s, who is brighter and more vibrant. It is because he isn’t an Eternal and doesn’t share the same connection with nature. Once in that realm, he tries to absorb the energy of Ushe and Helena. He says the what happens here also happens in the real world. So, if you take over someone’s soul, you can also take over their body.

At the end, when Helena merges Joseph’s soul into herself, this could mean that she has also taken over his body. Joseph had been poisoned by Ushe which is why he had the black goo coming out of him. Now that he is one with Helena, she also has the same thing running through her veins. The nightclub could be a place that she lands in after coming out of the realm (it is supposed to act as a wormhole.) But there is a deeper meaning behind this. The noise and chaos around her suggest her mental state. Even though it was she who overpowered Joseph, the merger did happen. She is as much herself now as she is Joseph. Body and soul. He is in her head and she has to constantly struggle with him trying to take over her. It is a mental battle that she will have to live with forever.

This leads us to another question. Is this what Joseph had always intended? In the last scene, while Helena looks confused and tormented, we see a calmer, sort of satisfied, expression on Joseph’s face. Did he know that the Eternals were stronger than him and he could never overpower them? He knew that Yua wouldn’t share the secret with him. Did he resort to the plan of surrendering to them, to be taken in rather than forcing his way? Now that he shares Helena’s body, does he also share her powers? Did he succeed after all?

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